Aligning Organisational Values with Your Personal Ones
January 8th, 2021
In my adolescence and early adulthood, I developed a series of core values that I felt would stand me in good stead for life. They were as follows:
- Service: Equipping myself for life, not just for my own benefit, but for the whole community.
- Balance: Balancing work with life outside of work. Trying hard, without becoming a fanatic. Knowing when enough is enough.
- Equality: Endeavouring to create equality of worth and opportunity and striving to ensure that these are not inhibited by any inequality of resources.
- Fun/Positivity: Life’s too short to commit myself to careers or activities that I don’t enjoy.
- Health: Emotional, mental, physical and societal health enable life to be lived to the full.
- Integrity: Telling myself the truth. Am I really living my values if I proceed in this way?
- Relationships: What brings most purpose to life: very little of any true worth is done completely on my own.
- Quality: If something’s worth doing, it’s worth doing well. If I live all my other values, this value should take care of itself.
When I founded mch in 2005, it seemed obvious to me that the company’s values should align with my personal ones. On its inception though, I chose only to declare publicly three of the above values as company values:
I took the view that these were the most relevant to my company and the values that clients would be most interested in. By 2008, my values-based approach to business gained sufficient attention that I was asked to write a short article for a regional enterprise network on how values can inform business. An edited extract of this article can be viewed below.
Fast forward to 2018 and, while my values remained constant, a considerable amount had changed in both my personal and professional life. A notable change was that I had started a relationship with someone who also led a company. A period of turmoil ensued as I felt that the way they were leading their business was in conflict with some of my personal values. In particular, my partner’s organisation was distributing resources in ways I found difficult to reconcile. I felt that they, like most businesses, were perpetuating the inequalities of opportunity that exist in society. Essentially, I found it very hard to separate the personal from the professional. Indeed, I began to appreciate that there really wasn’t a separation of my personal and professional values. Although I had only listed three professional/company values on my company’s website, the other five personal values had informed, and continued to inform, my professional practice.
In particular, I was reminded of just how much the value of equality had shaped my career choices. For example, my initial decision for mch to exclusively serve charitable organisations and social enterprises was, in part, driven by a desire to provide a level of support and expertise that such organisations wouldn’t otherwise be able to afford. Furthermore, a key motivator in taking on the role of Chief Executive of Rumbalara, the indigenous sporting and community development organisation in Australia, was to assist a community that had been deprived of equality of opportunity.
The experience also strengthened my view that so much of my own situation and success stemmed from an inequality of opportunity. The biggest contributors to my good fortune were nothing to do with anything I had done. Yes, I have worked hard throughout my career and have tried to make the most of opportunities. However, the greatest opportunities have arisen on account of being born in a country where I had access to free education and from being born into a loving and supportive family. My innate intelligence is nothing of my own doing either, and even my work ethic is likely to have been influenced by the cultural environments I have found myself in. The result is that from an early age, I have felt that I am already a winner in the lottery of life. Consequently, I have tried to find careers and adopt a lifestyle that utilises the skills I’ve been lucky enough to develop, to help others win too.
A key outcome of this experience has been to be more public about mch’s broader values and to use my business to promote them. For example, the value of equality informs the pricing of mch’s online courses and the appeal to support equality of opportunity in learning and development that features within them. I’ve also experienced the positive impact that can come from engaging with organisations with differing values. In addition to clarifying what’s really important, experiencing differing perspectives can help bring about positive changes in thinking and acting.